Arisa Junio, 22, is the Research and Advocacy Officer of the Development Action for Women Network. Below is a copy of her written speech about her experiences as a Japanese-Filipino child (JFC), which she delivered at the Enable Kids Project conference held in Ateneo de Manila University on March 30, 2016.
Photo courtesy of Arisa Junio
My life revolves around the saying “everything happens for a reason”. Whatever has happened to my life during the 22 years of my existence, I considered every action, decision, and challenge as brick roads towards what I plan for my life. I am honored to be raised by empowered women, who painstakingly endured all hardships to support my sister and my needs. Peculiar as it may sound, but I am delighted of how my life has become; without these detours in my life, I would never learn how to love myself and appreciate life at its fullest.
To start off, let me tell you a love story. There was once an Overseas Filipina Worker (OFW) and a Japanese contractual agent who met in an entertainment club in Takamatsu, Kagawa-ken in 1992. Their relationship blossomed, and in 1993, she found out that she’s pregnant with her first child. On the 15th of January 1994, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl and named her Arisa. Coincidentally that day as well, the Japanese father was scheduled to arrive in Manila. Baby Arisa was lucky to be with her father; however due to unfortunate circumstances, the baby was only able to be with her father for the first two weeks of her life. Upon his return to Japan, the mother kept on calling him, but the number seems to be out of coverage. She was terrified upon recalling what some of her Filipina friends had experienced with their Japanese partners. Until one day, she came to the realization that she and her child had vanished in his life. The man had cut all the potential communications he had with her. The baby, now 22 years old, grew up without having a glimpse and memory of her Japanese father.
While baby Arisa was growing up, she kept on asking questions about her father: on his whereabouts, condition, and even his presence. She was curious on how his father was, how he looked like, what his hobbies were, and much more. She wanted to see him, and to be with him. At the age of four, she became an older sibling to her JFC sister.
While she was growing up, she felt jealous of her classmates during family day celebrations at school. All she has is a mum, grandma, two aunties, and a little sister. She would force to brush-off the fact that she will never experience having a father during her family celebration gatherings at school. Until during her teenage years that she started getting angry both with her mum and dad because of his absence in her life. She oftentimes locked their door and cried, questioning God why her father left her.
Years had passed, and adulthood came. She was already taking up her undergraduate degree in International Studies major in Development Studies, minor in Gender Studies in Miriam College. Her anger changed to understanding of why certain things should happen in one’s life. She may have grown up without having a father figure at home, but she have four strong women who stood both as father and mother to her and her little sister. She was determined to excel at school, to chase her passion, and to follow her dreams. She has also become an advocate of gender equality—fighting all forms of inequality among men and women. She has participated in various activities of her department on empowering women, and was even inspired to write studies that highlighted narratives of women for publication.
It was during her third year in college when she attended the annual Women’s Summit held by the Women and Gender Institute in Miriam College, and came across the parallel discussion on women and migration. Ms. Carmelita G. Nuqui, the Executive Director of the Development Action for Women Network, was talking about the NGO she handles since 1996. The organization tackles cases of Filipino women migrants from Japan and their Japanese-Filipino Children (JFC). This parallel discussion has been an eye-opener to her, and she decided to apply at DAWN as intern. After communicating with their staff, DAWN accepted her to be one of their interns.
During her internship at DAWN, she felt that for the first time in her life, she has found another family outside her real family. She was welcomed by co-JFC, and had fun activities together. She was also able to hear their stories and experiences of bullying at school because of them being JFC. They were given bad impressions in their communities, schools, and even with their own selves. She was also exposed to the realities of her co-JFC. Despite her busy schedule at school, she finds time to share her knowledge and passion to help other JFC by participating in the several activities facilitated by DAWN. In 2014, she spearheaded the review of the Vision, Mission, and Goals of DAWN-JFC for Change, an organization established by DAWN JFC members on August 22, 2010 to capacitate members through activities for self-development.
Furthermore, DAWN has helped her reinforce her notion of women’s empowerment. She was able to write more on the challenges faced by women in fighting for equality and presented her work in postgraduate, international conferences abroad. Her burning passion in promoting feminism ignited with the help of the exposures she had at DAWN.
Currently, she is working as a Research and Advocacy Officer of DAWN. She utilizes her acquired competencies to provide technical assistance, as well as research expertise on issues regarding women and JFC.
The baby, who is now a proud and fearless sister to her younger sister, has become a woman who aims to achieve her goals and dreams without grieving over the absence of her father in her life. With the help of different people surrounding her, she acquired a new and fresh perspective in life—doing the things she love, fighting for what she believes is right, and empowering people around her with pride and dignity.
I am Arisa, and this is my story.